Can Wilms tumor be found early?
Wilms tumors are usually detected when they start to cause symptoms such as swelling in the abdomen, but by this point they have often grown quite large. They can be detected earlier in some children with tests such as an ultrasound of the abdomen (a test that uses sound waves and a computer to make images of internal organs – see the section, "How are Wilms tumors diagnosed?"). But because Wilms tumors are so rare, it is not practical to do an ultrasound exam as a screening test (a test to look for disease in people with no signs or symptoms) in all children who are not at increased risk. There are no blood tests or other tests that are useful in screening otherwise healthy children for Wilms tumors.
On the other hand, screening for Wilms tumor is very important for children who have syndromes or birth defects known to be linked to this disease. For these children, most doctors recommend physical exams by a specialist and ultrasound exams on a regular basis (for example, every 3 or 4 months until the age of 7) to find any kidney tumors when they are still small and have not yet spread to other organs.
Wilms tumor can also run in families, although this is rare. Talk to your doctor if you have relatives who have had Wilms tumor. If you do, the children in your family may need to have regular ultrasound exams.
Last Medical Review: 07/27/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013